Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI): Proposed Changes to the Disability Determination and Appeals Processes

Publication Date: April 2006

Publisher: Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service


Research Area: Population and demographics



The Social Security Administration (SSA) maintains multi-stage determination and appeals processes for applications to the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs.

These processes begin with an initial determination of disability by a state agency, followed by multiple opportunities for administrative appeals. Unsuccessful applicants are also entitled to appeal their decisions to the federal courts. These processes have been criticized by the SSA, the Social Security Advisory Board, the Governmental Accountability Office, and others for the timeliness of the final decision, for rendering initial decisions that are reversed on appeal, and for inconsistency across states.

In response to these criticisms, the SSA recently proposed changes to the disability determination and appeals processes. These changes would allow clearly disabled applicants to get a final decision in 20 days and would bring in-line and endof-line quality reviews into the processes. The reconsideration stage would be replaced with a review by a federal official and the Appeals Council would be replaced by a board that would review cases likely to contain errors.

Critics of these reforms have expressed concerns that the changes would put additional procedural burdens on persons with disabilities and make it more difficult for them to navigate the system and have all of the evidence in support of their cases heard.